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Getting these Wallabies back on track is no trivial matter

It was said in jest during a trivia night at our local golf club, but it somehow seemed to sum up the general reaction to the latest Kiwi-inflicted Wallaby woes.

Struggling to agree on the “Eight Natural Wonders of the World” (or is it seven?), one character at our table came up with the suggestion: “What about the All Blacks?”

There’s little doubt this current All Black outfit is a bit special – yes, potentially, perhaps one of the sporting wonders of the world.

But, if we accept that, then has the Australian media’s condemnation of the “Woeful Wallabies”, and coach Robbie Deans, been a tad over the top?

I’m no apologist for Deans – far from it. In fact, from the very outset, I cautioned those who saw his appointment as a major coup – and who scoffed at the NZRU’s decision to stick with Graham Henry and let Deans go — that the ARU’s first “foreign coach” experiment could well end in tears.

But  let’s keep things in some sort of perspective. The undermanned Wallabies have been humbled by a side that’s clearly playing rugby on another plane – and one that’s likely to take many other teams to the cleaners (with even uglier results) before anyone manages to close the class gap.

Where the Wallabies do stand condemned, however, is in abandoning the positive, upbeat, coherent game plan that — win, lose or draw – was once (in an increasingly distant past) their trademark.

Even allowing for the destabilising effect of injuries, nothing can excuse the mind-boggling cluelessness that has characterised these latest performances — and, let’s face it, severely damaged the code’s image in this country.

Deans must take the rap and, if he can’t turn things around dramatically in the next few weeks, then maybe the next flight home to Christchurch.

*                                 *                                 *

Quade Cooper? After all the conjecture, it has to be said that, for reasons largely beyond his control, he was forced into a decidedly unfamiliar role … as The Invisible Man.

 — Peter Thomson



10 Responses to Getting these Wallabies back on track is no trivial matter

  • Robert Messenger says:

    Deans is at fault for trying to get a team which contains O’Connor (or will again do), Beale, Cooper, Ioane, Genia et al to play highly-structured Canterbury-NZ-style rugby. As you said, the Wallabies need to get back to playing the type of rugby that comes much more naturally to Australians. That means getting rid of Deans ASAP.

  • Leo says:

    Pete, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s some kind of mind-altering substance sneaking its way into the lunchboxes of a few here.
    I can’t remember when I last read so many incredible reports of the extraordinary abilities of this current All Blacks crop and/or certain members of the squad.
    Perhaps we should stop a moment and think back only a few months to the R.W.C. final played in N.Z., with the All Blacks having a home advantage.
    This squad could score only one unconverted try to the converted try of the very ordinary French, and was saved from humiliation and desolation by a penalty from super-hero, Stephen Donald.
    This All Blacks squad might grow into something momentous, but, hell, they’ve got a way to go.

    • Sam says:

      Leo, name me a better performing team over the past decade.

      • Admin says:

        Not for the first time, Leo, I find myself thinking you’re a very hard man to please. Given that we’re now talking about the 2012 vintage ABs (under a new head coach), I fail to see the relevance of harping back to the RWC final — where, incidentally, an INSPIRED “very ordinary” French side turned up.

  • Sam says:

    For a team that was hailed as hosting the new breed of attacking backline superstars, being held to nil is a huge slap in the face. To win a game you need points. To score points you need the ball. Simple.
    With that in mind, I question the Wallabies’ tactics that always resulted in them defending for dear life. It seemed too often, and much too soon, that they resorted to kicking away possession. Some would say it’s a sign of respect for the opposition’s defence, which, yes, in this case is as solid as it comes. However, Saturday’s game showed us a team that had lost its way. The degree of unpredictability that the likes of Cooper, Genia and Beale offer backfires when you then rely on the bounce of the unpredictable rugby ball. Deans was quoted after the first Bledisloe game as saying he thought they played too much rugby down their own end of the ground so I’d be more understanding if there were more kicks for touch in order to gain territorial advantage. But the amount of chips, grubbers and assortment of aimless 50/50 kicking in order to spark something was astonishing. And, like Phil Kearns said, you could imagine the forwards dropping their heads after seeing the ball that they had fought hard at the breakdown to win being kicked away and returned with interest by a team which is in a league of their own. I for one have decided, based on the last couple of Tests, that I won’t be watching any more of the Wallabies’ matches in this Rugby Championship. Not as an act of sour grapes that we can’t win any of the trophies this year, but more as a result of being fed up with the incompetence that is continually shown by a team repeatedly built up in the media as being worthy contenders for the No 1 ranking in world rugby.

  • ROB says:

    Where do we start. Yes the All Black side is a very good side and will and have beaten all before them over the last few years however is that any different to the last 20 years except for one off games at the RWC.
    Australia have beaten the All Blacks in the last few years and yes we did make the semis at the last RWC which was a fairly good result. Not that long ago we beat a very good Welsh team 3 zip however that seems to have been forgotten. Us Aussies have very short memories and it is probably these same Aussies who say we had a bad Olympics. I for one was very disappointed on Sat evening with the result however the blame game can only take us so far. Berrick Barnes will always kick the ball away no matter who coaches him. Why cant we find a couple of decent centres? Maybe we should wait till the end of TRC before we hang anybody. Are the Saffers hanging their coach after 2 poor games v the Argies. Is there any thing wrong with being second or third best in the world? Some of these questions will be answered soon enough. Personlly I would like to leave Hooper on the side and put Pocock at #12, that would stir things up a bit!!!!
    Yours in Rugby
    Rob Ferrier

    • Admin says:

      Pocock at #12 certainly sounds a bit left-field, Rob, but, if memory serves, that’s precisely where he played a lot of his rugby as a schoolboy. Interesting …

  • John Wagner says:

    G’day Peter,

    Yes, mate, Australian Rugby IS in a terrible state at the moment, and I can’t see much light at the end of the tunnel. The gap between the ABs and the rest of the world is ever-widening, and Aust. would do very well IF they can hang on to No. 2 in the IRB ranking — the next few weeks will be definitive.
    Last night”s Rugby Club on Foxtel pointed to 22 players who have played for the Wallabies who are currently injured, but I’m sure NZ, SA. England etc. could all point to similar injured player numbers. The truth of the matterr is that Aust (unlike the other major nations) just does not have the player depth to cover such injuries, and the situation will only worsen as NRL and AFL take over even more! I can see a situation in, say, 10 years where only NZ, SA, England & France will be competitive.
    On another matter, Peter, I would be keen to hear your thoughts on the Laws of the game, with so few tries being scored. Even though the ABs were so dominant, they could score only one try (I know they came close on a couple of other occasions), while SA could manage only a charge-down try against the Argies.
    I know that the purists hate borrowing from League, but would it open up the game more if those not firmly bound in the ruck/maul had to stand , say, 5 or even 10 metres behind the hindmost foot?? (With mauls often going to ground, the hindmost foot of the defending team is often less than a metre behind the advantage line, since they need to not commit to the breakdown).

    Cheers Peter,


    • Admin says:

      Wag, I’d like to think we might be able to stimulate some discussion on laws (and suggested changes) down the track. So will certainly give that some serious thought. Meanwhile, have to say I find your silence on Robbie Deans deafening.

      • John Wagner says:

        No Peter, I still think that Deans is a good coach — maybe not a good selector. His work with the Crusaders proves that. But a coach must have the cattle to work with and, sadly, Deans does not have that luxury.
        As a human being, he leaves Sir (what a joke) Graham Henry for dead! Maybe Deans is too nice a bloke to get the best out of his rag-tag army??!!

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